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Physical Adjustments to Premises

Physical Adjustments to Premises

From October 2004, the final stage of the Disability Discrimination Act comes into force. This makes it unlawful for employers and people who provide services, goods and facilities to the public to discriminate against people who have a disability by not making 'reasonable adjustments' to the premises from which the goods, services or facilities are available.

It is important to recognise that not all disabilities are obvious. The act includes any person who has a mobility, sensory impairment, learning, mental ill health disabilities, severe facial disfigurements and certain other conditions.

If a disabled person feels that they have been wrongly excluded from the provision of goods, services or facilities, or the letting or selling of land or property, they will be able to take legal action through the courts to seek damages for any financial loss they have suffered and for any injury to their feelings. Even though approved document m to the Building Regulations has been identified as the standard against which accessibility for disabled people will be judged, the council does not have an enforcement role for this legislation.

This is not new legislation; since 2nd December 1996 it has been unlawful for service providers to treat disabled people less favourably for a reason related to their disability and, since 1st October 1999, service providers have been required to make ‘reasonable adjustments’, such as providing extra help or making changes to the way they provide services.

Further information is available from the Disabled Rights Commission:

Please note that the requirements for Building Regulation consent still apply for any physical changes to buildings. However, subject to certain criteria, the application may be exempt from the payment of fees.

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Meaning of physical features

The Disability Discrimination Act talks in terms of changes to the ‘physical features’ of buildings. These are any features arising from the design or construction of a building and any fixtures, fittings, furnishings and equipment on the premises. This could include paths, entrances, exits, entry systems, car parking, public phones, changing rooms, service counters, doors, toilets, stairs, shelves, waiting areas, signage, floor and wall coverings. This list is not intended to be exhaustive; simply to serve as an indicator of the variety of features that can present barriers for which solutions may need to be found. Employers and owners of buildings will need to anticipate the types of problems that may arise, so that when a disabled person requests a service, reasonable steps have already been taken to overcome and access issues.

Retailers, cafés, leisure departments, cinemas, health services and banks are just some of the service providers who we advise and inform to help them meet these duties.

If you would like to find out more about actioning reasonable adjustments to your business premises see the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 Part 3 - Physical Adjustment Duty.

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